The Limits of the Contingent Man

The purpose of the Baha’i Faith is to share the teachings of Baha’u’llah (1817 – 1892) with humanity.

Photo of Abdu'l-Baha

Abdu'l-Baha c1875

Baha’u’llah explained that his teachings are for humanity to know God and to love God, the primary purpose for the existence of humanity itself. This is not a simple esoteric vision. However, in simple terms it might be said to have three components: The Divine Reality is unknowable, and reality is far more extraordinary than our human minds can imagine; humanity is created into a contingency for the training of its far greater reality; and an ever-advancing civilisation is proof-in-part that the training is taking.

Two thrusts might be identified for the training that Baha’u’llah encourages: humility towards our own existence and knowledge; and empowerment to realise our potential. Though seemingly distinct, these thrusts are mutually supportive in the navigation they provide in advancement of contingent progress. Nowhere are these mutual thrusts more strongly explained than in a letter written by Baha’u’llah’s son, Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921), in 1921 in response to the questions of an individual.

Then how could it be possible for a contingent reality, that is, man, to understand the nature of that pre-existent Essence, the Divine Being? The difference in station between man and the Divine Reality is thousands upon thousands of times greater than the difference between vegetable and animal. And that which a human being would conjure up in his mind is but the fanciful image of his human condition, it doth not encompass God’s reality but rather is encompassed by it. That is, man graspeth his own illusory conceptions, but the Reality of Divinity can never be grasped: It, Itself, encompasseth all created things, and all created things are in Its grasp. That Divinity which man doth imagine for himself existeth only in his mind, not in truth. Man, however, existeth both in his mind and in truth; thus man is greater than that fanciful reality which he is able to imagine.

 The furthermost limits of this bird of clay are these: he can flutter along for some short distance, into the endless vast; but he can never soar upward to the Sun in the high heavens. We must, nevertheless, set forth reasoned or inspired proofs as to the existence of the Divine Being, that is, proofs commensurate with the understanding of man.

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